J. Service Scie nce & Management, 2009, 3: 181-185
doi:10.4236/jssm.2009.23021 Published Online September 2009 (www.SciRP.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
A Study of the Website Performance of Travel Agencies
Based on the EMICA Model
Derong LIN1, Zongqing ZHOU2, Xiaolin GUO3
1School of Management, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China; 2College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Niaga r a Uni v ersity,
New York, USA; 3School of Management, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China.
Email: drlin65@xmu.edu.cn, zhou@niagara.edu, xiaolinxmu@163.com
Received February 9th, 2009; revised April 8th, 2009; accepted May 11th, 2009.
Recent developments in information technologies (ITs), in particular the popularity of the Internet in the early 1990s,
have changed the way that tourism businesses communicate with its customers and the way that promotion and sales of
tourism products are conducted. Travel agencies with established websites are in a position to undertake productive
marketing activities. This paper uses the exten ded Model of Internet Commerce Adoption (eMICA) to evalua te the web-
site performance of travel agencies in China, with some modifications of the model for the purpose of the study. The
results showed that travel agencies in China were not utilizin g the Internet to its fu ll potential, par ticularly in terms of
marketing using its websites. Suggestions and recommendations are also provided based on the findings of this re-
Keywords: travel agencies, eMICA model, tourism, China
1. Introduction
In recent years, rapid advancements in information tech-
nology, particularly the Internet, have created enormous
opportunities for tradition al travel agencies to target their
tourism offerings to a wider market. In response to the
increasing demand for tourism information by the trav-
elers, many travel agencies have established websites to
promote their services and products. These websites
plays an important role in mediating between customers
and companies as a channel for information acquisition
and business transactions [1].
In the beginning, travel agency websites were simply
used as an ‘online brochure’, in other words, providing
static in-formation for the online consumers to view.
Today some travel agency websites are starting to find
other uses of their websites, such as providing interactive
functions and personalizing and customizing its contents
based on the characteristics of their target markets.
Travel agencies have come to realize that their websites
serve as a 24/7 extended office to their customers and
represent the quality of their products and services as
well as their reputation [2].
Studies on tourism website performance in the devel-
oped world have evolved over the years and are not hard
to find in the literature, but few can be found regarding
developing countries such as China. The purpose of this
paper is to introduce an approach for benchmarking the
relative maturity of websites used by travel agencies in
China, which is generally considered to be a developing
country. The approach involves applying an Internet
commerce adoption metric, the extended Model of
Internet Commerce Adoption (eMICA) developed by
Burgess and Cooper [3]. The eMI CA model was used to
evaluate the extent of tourism website development [4].
The findings of the study contribute to a better under-
standing of the functionality used in travel agency web-
sites and confirm in general the usefulness of the eMICA
model for evaluating websites by tourism businesses
such as travel agencies, with suggestions for improving
the eMICA model in future research. In addition, this
research provides recommendations for industry profes-
sionals on how to build well-constructed and effective
websites for marketing.
2. Literature Review
Studies on the role and impact of the Internet have been
conducted in recent years, particularly in the area of ad-
vertising and marketing. The Internet has proven to be an
effective means of advertising, marketing, distributing
goods, and information services. Zhou [2] has asserted
that for the advertising industry, the Web is both the
biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity in a long
time. Furthermore, the travel and tourism industry is a
very fragmented and an information-rich business, which
makes it especially receptive for the benefits that the
Internet offers. One of the characteristics of tourism
products is that it is intan gible, in other words, they can-
not be sampled before the purchase decision is made [2].
The information-based nature of the tourism products
means that the Internet, which offers global reach and
multimedia capability, is an ideal communication vehicle
for promoting and distributing tourism products and ser-
vices [4].
How the Internet changed traditional tourism industry
in developed countries has been studied [2]. Burgess et
al. [3] explored the level of uptake of the web as a mar-
keting tool by businesses in the regional tourism industry
sector in Australia. The Chinese tourism industry has
developed its online services and obtained some initial
experience. China, as a developing country, has a differ-
ent tourism Ecommerce development environment in
which barriers and challenges are abound and are indica-
tive of a developing country. However, there are only a
few researches into the classification and evaluation of
tourism websites in China, although in the case of gen-
eral website assessment, some publications of results do
exist but they do not specifically address tourism web-
sites in developing countries.
Many researchers have used content analysis to evalu-
ate the websites of related industries [6]. Murphy et al. [7 ]
used five search engines to search hotel websites in
Florida and identified 32 different features from 36 hotel
websites that provided on-line reservations. The 32 fea-
tures were divided into four categories: promotion and
marketing, service and information, interactivity and
technology and management. Countryman [8] used con-
tent analysis to evaluate the official tourism websites of
all 50 states in the United States. Tony Chung [9] pre-
sented an information quality evaluation model for
measuring the performance of hotel websites. The model
was developed on the basis of a conceptual framework
which consisted of five major hotel website dimensions,
including facilities information, customer contact infor-
mation, reservations information, surrounding area in-
formation, and management of websites. Baloglu and
Pekcan [10] utilized content analysis to analyze the
web-sites of a select group (4-star and 5-star) of ho tels in
Turkey in terms of site design characteristics (interactiv-
ity, navigation, and functionality) and site marketing
practices on the Internet.
In relation to the above, Doolin and Cooper [4] has
described that commercial website development typi-
cally begins simply and evolves over time with the addi-
tion more functionality and complexity as firms gain
experience with Internet technologies. The extended
model of Internet Commerce Adoption (eMICA) model
developed by Burgess and Cooper [3] was based on this
concept. They used the eMICA model to evaluate the
level of website development in New Zealand’s Regional
Tourism Organizations and highlighted the utility of us-
ing interactivity to measure the relative maturity of tour-
ism websites. Since then, the eMICA model has been
used frequently. Larson & Ankomah [5] employed it to
evaluate the degree of sophistication of the websites of
20 US states/territories’ tourism organizations. Wu and
Zhou [11] have also used the eMICA model to study the
electronic commerce application level of Chinese tour
3. Methodology
3.1 Sampling Procedure
For the purpose of this study, the travel agencies guide
(list) published in 2006 on official tourism bureau
web-site (http://www.cnta.gov.cn/) were used as the
sampling frame. The guide contains the top 100 travel
agencies in China, with different level of operational
capabilities. Some travel agencies can only operate
within China while others are registered for both domes-
tic and international travel. Out of the 100 travel agen-
cies, we select a total sample of 30 agencies, half of
which can run its tour operation within China, while the
other half can handle both domestic and international
3.2 Data Collection
Search engines, Baidu and Google, were used to find the
corresponding websites. As the site performance may be
influenced by the type of browser, computer speed,
Internet speed, and time of a day, these external factors
were controlled when conducting the content analyses of
the sites, i.e. same browser, Pentium 4 computer, high-
speed Internet connection, and time slot of the day.
3.3 Instrument
This study uses the eMICA model developed by Burgess
and Cooper to evaluate the hotel websites. The eMICA
model consists of three stag es, incorporating three levels
of business process—Web-based promotion, provision of
information and services, and transaction processing.
The stages of development provide a roadmap that indi-
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
Table 1. The extended model of internet commerce adoption (eMICA)
EMICA Examples of functionality
Stage 1—promotion
Layer 1—basic information
Layer 2—rich information
Company name, physical address and contact details, area of business
Annual report, email contact, information on company activities
Stage 2—provision
Layer 1—low interactivity
Layer 2—medium interactiv-
Layer 3—high interactivity
Basic product catalogue, hyperlinks to further information, online enquiry form
Higher-level product catalogues, customer support (e.g., FAQs, sitemaps), indus-
try-specific value added features
Chat room, discussion forum, multimedia, newsletters or updates by email
Stage 3—processing Secure online transactions, order status and tracking, interaction with corporate
cates where a business or industry sector is in its deve-
lopment of Internet commerce applications. In order to
accommodate the wide range of Internet commerce de-
velopment evidenced in industries such as tourism,
eMICA incorporates a number of additional layers of
complexity, ranging from very simple to highly sophis-
ticated, within the identified main stages of the model.
The eMICA model is shown in Table 1.
Promotion is the initial stage of web development,
with static information which serves mainly to promote
and publicize the business offerings. A second level is
also presented where a richer variety of information is
available on the web. In other words, this is an add itional
channel of marketing strategies, offering the company’s
information online. The second stage described what the
eMICA model is when the company website moves to a
dynamic information system with a web front end.
Within this stage, three levels are identified. Low level
of interactivity is characterized by on-line catalogues,
links to detailed information and on-line registration
form. Medium level of interactivity is characterized with
more complete product catalogues, on-line help for users
and personalization as well as wider links to industry
sites. High level of interactivity is completed by the sites
that include chat rooms, discussion forums, multimedia
applications and dynamic newscasts.
The third stage identified in the eMICA model is
where the web site has a functional maturity which per-
mits on-line transactions. This requires a higher level of
security than the previous stages as well as user identifi-
cation. At this stage users will be able to purchase prod-
ucts and services across the web, maintain an individual
profile and obtain personal profiles matching offerings to
the individual needs. This is the broadest and most com-
plex ecommerce application since it enables the com-
pany to process multiple tasks such as online sales,
online orders, online delivery (especially for digital
products) and online payment. Thus, in this layer, the
company creates an integrated function.
This paper uses the eMICA model to study the travel
agency website of China, because the model has been
tested and used on tourism industry, and several surveys
have been done for the Australian, New Zealand, and
Asia-Pacific regional tourism organizations. In fact, there
are quite a lot of differences between travel agency
web-sites and regional tourism organizations (RTO)
websites. In this study, we change and modify the origi-
nal model created by Burgess and Cooper (2000). In
evaluating the travel agency websites, some elements are
omitted, but some new ones are added. Similar to the
original model, the adopted one from us has three stages,
but some of the elements are changed:
Promotion stage:
1). Contact detail
2). Images
3). Description for the travel agency
Provision stage:
4). Systematic links to further information
5). Product catalogs (tour routes, accommodation,
dining, shopping)
6). Multiple value-added features (key facts, maps,
location, news, photo gallery, promotion)
7). Interactive value-added features (currency cover-
ters, interactive maps, downloadable materials,
special offers, member’s privileges, guest books)
8). Online customer support (FAQs, site map, site-
search engine)
9). Searchable databases for tour routes under dif-
ferent inquiry condition
10). Online bookings
11). Advanced value-added features (Order form
inquiry multi-language support, member lands,
multimedia, chat rooms and discussion forum s)
Processing stage:
12). Secure online payment
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
13). Services after payment
This modification brings a clearer and more under-
standable way for analyzing the study. The stages are
separate according to the communication channels that
they implement. Information stage only has the elements
for B2C communication channel where the travel agen-
cies publish information about their contact detail, area
of business, information on company activities etc. In-
teraction stage contains elements for B2C, C2B and C2C
communications, and makes possible two-way interac-
tion with the customers. Transaction stage is the most
advanced stage according the model and allows custom-
ers to purchase and pay the hotel products online. Fur-
thermore, in this stage, a series of services should follow
up after the payment.
4. Results
Each travel agency site was assigned an appropriate
stage and layer in the eMICA model based on the level
of development of the site. A site needed to display func-
tionality up to at least Level 4 to be classified as Stage 2
of eMICA. Sites reaching Level 7 functionality were
classified as Stage 2, Layer 2, and those reaching Level
10 functionality were classified as Stage 2, Layer 3.To
be classified as Stage 3 of eMICA, a site required func-
tionality at Level 12. The results of the study are shown
in Table 2 From the statistical result, only two travel
agencies are in the first stage; the majority of examined
travel agencies are placed to second stage of the eMICA
model; they have inherited the core function and charac-
teristic from first stage, such as contact details, company
introduction and images. As the under discussion dem-
onstrates, the prominent difference manifests in the three
standard levels of second stage. In the highest stage of
the model, none has offered secure online payment, does
not need to mention serv ices after payment.
The main difference among these travel agency web-
Table 2. Results of the travel agency websites evaluated
Stage of eMICA Number of sites Percentage
of total sites
Stage 1-Layer 1 0 0
Stage 1-Layer 2 2 6.7%
Stage 2-Layer 1 7 23.3%
Stage 2-Layer 2 15 50%
Stage 2-Layer 3 6 20%
Stage 3 0 0
Total 30 100%
sites is in Stage 2 (Provision). The travel agencies lo-
cated in the first layer of this stage have acquired sys-
tematic links to further, which enable customers to ob-
tain corresponding information convenien tly and quickly
both inside and outside the websites. Certainly, consid-
erable amount of websites do not have the overall sys-
tematic links; when entering the next surface, the infor-
mation often has the vacancy or is insufficient. In the
second layer, the majority of travel agencies have inter-
active value-added features and site search engine. None
of the travel agencies have attributes of the Processing
stage, Stage 3 of the eMICA model. In other words, none
of the websites have developed to that stage. This may
indicate that many people are reluctant to make credit
card transactions online for some scruple, especially se-
cure payment.
5. Discussion
As the number of websites continues to grow at an ex-
plosive rate, how the websites of each industry attract
customers will become increasingly critical for business
survival. So are in travel agencies. According to this re-
search, the insufficiency of trav el agencies in China is in
the below aspects:
1) The websites often take oneself as central, but ne-
glect consumer’s demand. The content of the websites is
not well designed. Generally, when planning the web-
sites, a mentality that we should prominently propagan-
dize the hotel continues. The pages are filled with mas-
sive duties manifesto and the enterprise history, but are
lack of information or online service which customer
really expect to get. Hence, when designing th e webs ites,
some critical details should be considered by the profes-
sionals of the travel agencies, such as what the customers
need and how we can attract them to our sites.
2) Some travel agencies have used Flash video as their
front-page, which is not a good choice. The Flash cannot
play the role for shedding the light of frontages, but
causes them look like rather mediocre, for nearly all of
them used the same style. Besides, the Flash has slowed
down the visit speed, has disturbed the search engine to
stand capturing, and also has affected the customer visi-
tor’s friendliness. On the one hand, the search engine
cannot be able to distinguish Flash, correspondingly,
except the name, nothing can be found by the search
engine. On the other hand, taking Flash as the front-page
also increased nonessential clicking times before the
customers could find the effective information. As an
investigation has shown, ev ery time increases time clicks,
the visitor can reduce above 30%. Regarding the foreign
visitor, such design is especially unfriendly.
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
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3) Like any type of information system, the key factor
for developing a successful online application is to cor-
rectly define user requirements. Some websites are not
satisfactory due to ill-defined requirements that do not
meet the expectations of users. User evaluation for ‘in-
formation content’ ensures that the in formation provided
on the web is useful, up-to-date, and can meet customer
needs and link relevant sites to users. In response to the
question ‘what are the main purposes to visit hotel web-
sites?’, ‘to get information’ obtained the highest rating.
For the question ‘what is th e most popular online service
on travel agency websites?’, ‘providing information’ has
listed first. Therefore, as obtaining informatio n is still the
main aim of web users, improving the quality and level
of web information presentation and management are
major tasks for current travel agency website develop-
Furthermore, services after payment should be fol-
lowed, which can be considered to be Layer 2 of the
Stage 3. This layer which includes following services is
not presented in eMICA model, but it is important and
significant from our point of view. Along with guests’
individual service demand increasing, the travel agency
which can provide order form tracking, accumulation
preferential benefit, and regular promotion transmission
to guests inevitab ly occupies sup eriority in the marketing
while competing with others.
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